Wild Places Belong to Everyone
Written by: Cheylon Brown, Rec Coordinator at MLK Jr. Rec Center
Recently, I read an article on Reinvigorating the Dialogue: Conservation and Social Equity, and suddenly I found my place in the world of Parks and Recreation. While I love my work, the community, and what Parks and Recreation offers to our community, I searched for a way to marry my world with my newly found passion - and this article illuminated the way.
Conservation of land should be everyone's responsibility.
As a higher education transplant into Parks and Recreation, there have been numerous similarities in the procedural work; yet, I anxiously sought for my niche. Without a doubt, the article discussed some myths as to why certain populations shy away from nature and how it is everyone's responsibility to care for and conserve our parks and nature.
Therefore, I would like to extend the conversation to include suggestions for overcoming the cultural sensitivities felt in some communities about nature. First, as a higher education programmer, it was almost programmatic suicide to offer programs without co-sponsors. I believe this concept can help chip away at the cultural sensitivity found in some communities. Secondly, intentional efforts to identify culturally diverse organizations, small organizations, and college students to serve as co-sponsors is another method. When these organizations collaborate with Parks and Recreations and Wildlife, the results are mutually beneficial for conservation and the organizations.
It is everyone's responsibility to care for and conserve our parks and nature.
Next, some hindrances perpetuate stereotypes that parks and nature or wildlife preservations are for "certain" populations. In the article "Diversity and the Conservation Movement," Bonta, DeFalco, and Taylor Smith referenced that historically mainstream conservation movement attracted a small population of people. With the changing demographics of our society, it is imperative to expand our reach. In "Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors," Finney mentions several historical events, such as slavery and Jim Crow laws that aided in creating the current divide.
However, with the ever-changing diversity of our landscape, new opportunities arise. For instance, James Edward Mills reminds us that the wild places belong to everyone. Yes, this is a simple concept, but we must work with intentionality to create a sense of ownership for everyone. Therefore, creating mutually beneficial relationships and programs is essential.
For instance, changing the advertising and marketing materials to become more inclusive is a great starting point. Inviting local organizations with common goals is another. Appeal to the innate desire to give back or make things better. Then, remind the community of the benefits provided by natural nature as well as man-made parks.
For example, Tiffany Tiberio, in "Telling a Story with your Playground," states that local history should be told and incorporated in the playground. When we do this, we open the door for community buy-in and increase our stakeholders. Everyone wants to feel included. Use the stakeholders (real people who utilize the space) to show the effects of stress reduction and social interaction. After all, conservation of land should be everyone's responsibility.
Finally, I believe that the effective use of community mapping would produce the most mutually beneficial relationships. In a few steps, the faces of those using nature, wildlife, or man-made parks can change. Expand the type of people invited to serve on park and wildlife boards by instilling parameters that naturally causes diversity. Next, identify the active organizations in the community and implement buy-in programs like Adopt a Block.
Providing ownership grants a higher level of responsibility. Lastly, think outside the norm and program in natural spaces or outside. Inadvertently, the faces in spaces change, buy-in expands, and mutually beneficial relationships are formed by doing these small things.
Try it! Step outside your door, enjoy natural beauty, and do all you can to maintain it.